US ambassador to Russia explains his decision to stay after the Trump-Putin summit

Jon Huntsman, now US ambassador to Russia, speaks in South Carolina in 2012.

Jon Huntsman says he’s staying on, citing the “fragile nature” of the current moment.

United States Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman fired back at those calling for him to resign after President Donald Trump’s performance at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he’ll continue to serve and represent the US’s interests in this “fragile” moment.

Huntsman late Saturday wrote an op-ed explaining his reasoning in the Salt Lake Tribune, responding to a piece published earlier in the week by columnist Robert Gehrke in the same newspaper calling for him to step down. Huntsman’s brother, Paul Huntsman, bought the Salt Lake Tribune in 2016 and is its owner and publisher.

“Ambassador Huntsman, you work for a pawn, not a president. It’s time to come home,” Gehrke wrote on Tuesday. He argued that there is “no other reasonable course of action to take” after Trump’s disastrous press conference with Putin on Monday, during which the US president appeared to side with Putin over the US intelligence community on the matter of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Gehrke said that Huntsman’s duty to his country is “not by holding on to some title and being the emissary of a president who doesn’t share your values, or American values, for that matter,” but instead to step down.

Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah and US ambassador to China under the Obama administration, responded with his own op-ed on Saturday, saying he respects Gehrke as an opinion writer and the “legitimate arguments on all sides.” But he disagrees with the assertion he should go away:

If you have occasion to visit us in Moscow, I will introduce you to hundreds of colleagues, who are the most highly trained in their field with years of experience working in Russia. Representatives of our foreign service, civil service, military and intelligence services have neither the time nor inclination to obsess over politics, though the issues of the day are felt by all. Their focus is on the work that needs to be done to stabilize the most dangerous relationship in the world, one that encompasses nuclear weapons, fighting terrorism, stopping bloodshed in Ukraine, and seeking a settlement of the seemingly intractable Syrian crisis. Their dedication to service to their country is above politics, and it inspires me to the core. It is my standard.

As Vox’s Madeleine Ngo notes, multiple people tied to Huntsman criticized Trump’s cozying up to Putin. That included his daughter, Fox News host Abby Huntsman.

Jon Weaver, who served as Huntsman’s campaign strategist when he ran in the 2012 presidential election, called on the former governor to resign.

Tim Miller, press secretary on Huntsman’s 2012 campaign, reacted specifically to Huntsman’s why-I’m-staying op-ed and suggested that Trump officials could find “solidarity in walking away.”

Thus far, Huntsman’s staying.

“I have taken an unscientific survey among my colleagues, whom you reference, about whether I should resign,” Huntsman wrote in response to Gehrke. “The laughter told me everything I needed to know. It also underscores the fragile nature of this moment.”

source: vox

Kavanaugh once suggested maybe the Supreme Court got it wrong on Nixon

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh arrives on Capitol Hill for a meeting in July 2018.

Trump’s Supreme Court nominee isn’t so sure the court should have compelled Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes in 1974.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s views on presidential powers are not helping those concerned about the integrity of the Russia investigation sleep better at night. The latest development: the judge’s suggestion many years ago that the Supreme Court might have gotten it wrong when it compelled President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes.

In the trove of documentation Kavanaugh turned in to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation process is a 1999 roundtable discussion where Kavanaugh floated the idea that maybe the United States’ highest court made a mistake in 1974. That’s the year it ruled unanimously in United States v. Nixon that the president had to hand over to a federal district court the tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials tied to the Watergate break-in. Mark Sherman at the Associated Press was the first to report the comments.

Kavanaugh’s belief in the importance of executive power is already under scrutiny, especially in light of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation and the possibility that President Donald Trump could be subpoenaed or, less likely, indicted. As Vox’s Jen Kirby points out, the Supreme Court could wind up hearing some element of the Russia investigation, and there’s a possibility Kavanaugh could be one of the justices to decide on the matter.

In a transcript of a roundtable discussion published in the January-February 1999 issue of the Washington Lawyer on attorney-client privilege, Kavanaugh suggested that the Nixon case might have been “wrongly decided.” Per the AP, he said:

But maybe Nixon was wrongly decided — heresy though it is to say so. Nixon took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official. That was a huge step with implications to this day that most people do not appreciate sufficiently...Maybe the tension of the time led to an erroneous decision.

At another point, he said perhaps the court should have stayed out of the dispute altogether.

It’s not necessarily an open-and-shut case that Kavanaugh disagrees with the Supreme Court’s 8-0 decision on the Nixon tapes.

Bloomberg points out that in 1998, Kavanaugh in an article called on Congress to “codify the current law of executive privilege,” including the Nixon decision. And in a 2016 law review article, he cited the Nixon case among examples of the “greatest moments in American judicial history” when judges “stood up to the other branches, were not cowed, and enforced the law.”

Still, his 1999 comments in the Washington Lawyer roundtable raised eyebrows.

Harvard law professor and constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe in a tweet called them “deeply alarming.” University of Texas Steve Vladick said it was a “big deal” and could have implications for Mueller.

This isn’t the first time Kavanaugh’s view of executive power has raised eyebrows

In the 1990s, Kavanaugh worked on independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton, an aggressive probe that started off with a land deal and ended with a recommendation he be impeached for lying about an affair with Monica Lewinsky.

But after serving in President George W. Bush’s administration and getting an up-close look at the presidency, Kavanaugh’s views changed — now he believes a sitting president shouldn’t be investigated at all.

In an article for the Minnesota Law Review in 2009, Kavanaugh wrote that Congress should pass a law exempting the president from criminal prosecution and investigation while in office, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense lawyers.

“I believe that the President should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office,” Kavanaugh wrote. “We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions.”

He warned that indicting a sitting president and putting him on trial would “cripple the federal government.” He specifically expressed regret about the Clinton probe and suggested the president perhaps could have “focused on Osama bin Laden” had he not been distracted by investigations.

Kavanaugh’s assertions have alarmed those worried about the integrity of the Mueller investigation and, more broadly, many of President Trump’s legal entanglements. Vox’s Andrew Prokop recently explained the dilemma:

Now, this is in the context of calling for Congress to change existing law — not for the Supreme Court to interpret it differently. However, these beliefs and opinions could well influence how Kavanaugh would rule on the major topics related to civil or criminal investigations that do end up reaching the Supreme Court.

And these are topics of enormous importance to Trump, who’s facing not just the Mueller probe over Russian interference with the 2016 election, but a civil suit over his foundation and a defamation suit from Summer Zervos, who has said Trump sexually assaulted her.

With the discovery of his 1999 remarks, Kavanaugh just gave onlookers another reason to worry.

source: vox

NIWA Partners Europe, China on Waterways Development


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National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) says the agency is collaborating with Europe and China on waterways development, through the understudy of the major rivers in the world located in those countries.

Mr Danladi Ibrahim, Acting Managing Director, NIWA, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.

He said that NIWA was also entering into agreement with those countries on technical collaboration to assist the agency with expert that would train its staff from time to time.

“We have undergone some studies of the major Rivers in the world, for instance, we have studied the Danubi river, which crosses about 10 European countries, we are also understuding Rhine River in Europe.

“And the river that crosses the city of Changjiang in China and as a result of this, we are entering into agreements with them for technical collaboration between NIWA, Europe and China.”

According to him, the partnership is on technical areas, exchanging technical knowledge, they will also be assisting NIWA with the training of the staff.

“The collaboration is for general development of inland waterways system, in terms of ports, in terms of general management, and dockyards.”

“The best way to develop infrastructure for water development is to partner with the private sector,” Ibrahim said.

He said that involving the private sector was expedient because government cannot do it alone, it cannot do it perfectly because it’s capital intensive.

The managing director, however, said that even in developed countries, substantial part of development are on Public Private Partnership (PPP).

Ibrahim, however, said that the only way to develop infrastructure in Nigeria was through PPP.(NAN)


America’s top spy downplays “awkward” response to Trump’s Putin invite as Helsinki fallout continues

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats arrives at the US Capitol for a briefing in May 2018.

Dan Coats wants you to know that, despite what it seems, he and Trump are on the same page.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is trying to downplay his surprised reaction to the news that President Donald Trump plans to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House in the fall. He says his “awkward response” wasn’t meant to be critical of the president, who is continuing to face the fallout over his performance at Monday’s Helsinki summit.

He released a statement Saturday addressing his earlier remarks, capping off what’s been a weird week for Trump and Coats all around.

During a Monday press conference with Putin, Trump seemed to indicate he believed Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 election over the United States intelligence community’s evidenced-based assertions that Russia interfered. Hours later, Coats released a statement contradicting the president, saying the intelligence community has been “clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

After bipartisan outrage over Trump’s performance at the press conference, the president on Tuesday claimed he misspoke when he told reporters, “I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia]” who meddled in the 2016 election. Trump said he what he meant to say is he didn’t see why it wouldn’t have been Russia.

But that didn’t end the Trump-Coats miscommunication.

On Wednesday, Trump again cast doubt on the broad consensus within the US intelligence community that Russia is still meddling in US politics. When asked by a reporter whether he thought Russia was still targeting the US, he responded with a simple, “No.” Hours later, the White House reversed course — Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that Trump was actually saying he didn’t want to answer questions.

During a Q&A session with NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum the following day, Coats admitted he doesn’t “know what happened in that meeting” between Trump and Putin, and he was caught by surprise by Trump inviting Putin to Washington. When Mitchell told him about it, he replied, laughing, “Say that again.”

Per Saturday’s statement, it looks like Coats is trying to smooth things over with the president. “Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me in a live interview,” he said. “My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the President.”

Trump’s still not getting rave reviews over the Helsinki summit

The criticism of Trump’s performance at the Helsinki summit and press conference continued into the weekend, despite the White House’s efforts to change the subject.

On Sunday, Susan Rice, former national security adviser under the Obama administration, said in an appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos that it was a “historic mistake” for Trump to sit down with Putin by himself. She lamented Trump’s “tragic display of sycophancy” at the press conference, “where the president called into question yet again, standing next to Vladimir Putin, a dictator, the integrity of our intelligence community.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on CBS’s Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan said the White House’s mixed messaging on Russia this week was “not a good moment for the administration.”

Tom Bossert, who was Trump’s homeland security adviser before he was ousted in the spring, gave a more forgiving assessment also on This Week: He said he believes Trump’s meeting with Putin in private was “productive.” He also weighed in on the Coats debacle, saying coverage of his reaction to the Putin-comes-to-Washington news was “overblown” and he was simply being “light-hearted.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, appeared alongside Bossert on This Week and offered a harsher point of view.

“I would agree with Tom that the talks in Helsinki were productive, but they were productive for Vladimir Putin,” he said. “The reality is we have no idea what this president, our president, agreed to.”

And he said Coats being kept out of the loop isn’t his fault. “The failing is that the president hasn’t even described to his own intelligence chief what he might have agreed to in that private two-hour meeting,” he said.

source: vox

17,000 Pilgrims Register for Hajj Biometric Data System


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The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) says no fewer than 17,000 intending pilgrims for this year’s Hajj in Saudi Arabia had been registered in its biometric data capturing system as at July 19.

It said in a statement by Fatima Usara, Head, Public Affairs, NAHCON, that over 5,000 visas had also been issued within the period.

It said that the registration was provided free by the Saudi Arabian authorities for only intending pilgrims, adding that any pilgrim who paid for the service should return to the centre for refunds.

“Intending pilgrims are also advised, for avoidance of speculations and distrust that there are other biometric data capturing candidates that are not pilgrims but are legitimately travelling to Saudi Arabia for their different purposes,” it said.

The statement said that the data registration was progressing steadily and advised prospective pilgrims to be patient by waiting for their turn before presenting themselves for the exercise.

“This is important to maintain orderliness, prevent stress and stick to the arrangement on ground to accommodate specific number of people at a time.”

Meanwhile, the first batch of 445 Nigerian pilgrims from Kogi arrived in Madinah on Saturday aboard the inaugural flight for the pilgrimage.

An advance team of medical officials, feeding and accommodation committees had earlier arrived in Saudi Arabia to ahead of the inaugural flight. (NAN)


FLood: SEMA Distributes Relief Materials to Victims in Kebbi


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The State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) in Kebbi says it has distributed relief materials to victims of flood disaster at Alfagai and Bangola villages in Birinin Kebbi Local Government area.

Its Chairman, Alhaji Sani Dododo,d said this while distributing the items on Friday in Birinin Kebbi.
He said that the aim was to cushion the effects of the flood disaster.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the items included bags of cement, bags rice, bags of millet, bags of guinea corn, zinc roofing sheets, nails, wrappers and mosquito nets, among others.

NAN also reports that no life was lost to the flood, but it rendered hundreds of people homeless.
The SEMA Chairman said that items worth millions of naira were lost.

”We are here today to support and identify with you, particularly, in this difficult and trying moment you are in.

“No amount of items donated to you can equate your loss, but this is just a way of letting you know that you are in our thoughts, ” Dododo said.
He advised the victims to support the administration of Governor Abubakar Bagudu in its bid to transform the state.

Some of the victims commended the government for the donations and pledged to use the materials judiciously. (NAN)


My Wife is Adulterous, Husband Tells Court


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A man, Olalekan Babalola on Thursday, sought a dissolution of his 13 year old marriage at an Agege Customary Court, Lagos, alleging that his wife, Olushola Babalola, is adulterous and deceitful.

Olalekan, who is a the respondent in a divorce suit filed by his wife, accused Olushola of infidelity.

He said that his wife packed out of their matrimonial home to join another man.

The respondent said that he had a tough life while growing up in a polygamous home and would not wish same for his three children.

“Although, l cannot force my wife to come back home, l do not want my children to grow in a separated home.

“I called my wife on phone and told her that I was not begging her to come back home, but she should at least check on the children.

“Instead, my wife told me that she would come to the house, that I should bring the children to her or forget about it,’’ he said.

Olalekan said that he discovered after some years that Olushola had earlier given birth to two other children before he met her although, one of them had died.

“She claimed that the other child was her sister’s own but l found out later that she owned the child and she did not deny it.

“I was heartbroken and it affected my health and job,” he said.

However, the petitioner, Olushola, urged the court to dissolve the marriage for her husband’s insults on her.

She said that her husband refused to marry her legally and insulted her whenever she brought up the issue.

“My husband said that only the fools bother to legalise their marriages.

“My husband takes delight in insulting me at anytime, saying that l am frivolous and adulterous.

“I am tired of this union and l prayed the court to separate us so that we go our different ways peacefully without any form of threat,’’ she said.

The court president, Mrs Ibironke Elabor, urged the estranged couple to maintain the peace and adjourned the case until Sept. 4 for alternative dispute resolution. (NAN)


BREAKING: JAMB Remits N7.8bn as Examination Surplus


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The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) says it has remitted another N7.8 billion to the Federal Government.

The board’s Head, Media and Information, Dr Fabian Benjamin, made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.

According to him, the board has planned to remit the amount as surplus to the Federal Government as was done in 2017.

Benjamin said that the amount was the surplus generated from the conduct of the board’s 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

“However, government in its magnanimity, graciously directed that we remit about N5.6 billion and use the balance for restructuring of the board’s headquarters to meet up with its international status.

“We, therefore, want to appreciate the governing board of JAMB led by Dr Emmanuel Ndukwe for the tremendous support in ensuring that the current administration’s vision of transparency and accountability as fully embraced by JAMB is sustained.

“The Ndukwe-led board had, within its short period of inauguration, contributed immensely in some ground breaking innovations.

“One of such innovations is the quick remittance of the 2018 surplus. Whatever candidates pay for JAMB’s examination is a trust and must be accounted for.

“The board, though not a revenue generating agency, will continue to be judicious with resources at its disposal,” he said.

Benjamin said that cumulatively and technically, the board had remitted a total of N15.6 billion in less than two years.

“The board is thinking of how to ensure that candidates benefitted from the surplus.

“We are currently looking at a number of ways to enhance the conduct of the examination where candidates will benefit by way of conducive environment in writing the examination.

“We are also looking at putting more mechanism in place that will ensure absolute equity and fairness in the selection of candidates through enhanced technology as currently being done by the Central Admission Process Selection (CAPS),” he said.

Benjamin said that the board was set to acquire cutting edge technology to give candidates the best registration procedure, examination and a more improved selection process.

He said the development was similar to the one that was currently being developed by the CAPS initiative.

Benjamin lauded the efforts of members of staff of the board, as well as other key stakeholders, for their doggedness, commitment and support in ensuring that integrity of the board and its examination was sustained. (NAN)


The FBI released records on Carter Page surveillance. It thought he was being recruited by Russia.

Former foreign policy adviser to Trump Carter Page.

This makes some of those Nunes memo claims even more dubious.

We now have a clearer picture of why the FBI was watching former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, after the Justice Department released previously classified documents related to the FBI’s request to conduct surveillance on him. House Republicans had said the FBI abused its power and misled judges in these surveillance applications, but the documents show the FBI had multiple reasons to believe Page was the subject of “targeted recruitment” by Russia in its efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential election and that he had been “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

On Saturday, the FBI released a redacted version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application after news organizations such as the New York Times and advocacy groups including Judicial Watch sued for it to be released. The release included 412 pages of documentation, including the original October 2016 request to wiretap Page and multiple renewal applications.

This marks the first time a FISA application has been made public since the law was enacted in 1978.

The document lays out the case for why officials believed it was necessary to keep an eye on Page, a Trump campaign aide on foreign policy. The FBI thought the Russian government had recruited him in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and noted Page’s “established relationships” with Russian government officials and intelligence officers.

Officials said Page “has been collaborating with and conspiring with the Russian government” and said Russia’s efforts were being coordinated with Page and “perhaps other individuals associated with” the Trump campaign.

Page has denied wrongdoing. In an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper on Sunday, he dismissed the contents of the FISA applications. “This is really nothing and just an attempt to distract from the real crimes that are shown in this misleading document,” he said.

The application included claims from the now-infamous Steele dossier, documents and evidence put together by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that alleges a conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russia. The dossier has become a political football, with Republicans claiming it is unreliable and politically motivated and therefore should not have been used by the FBI, and Democrats arguing the FBI and Justice Department followed protocol in getting the go-ahead to surveil Page.

The documents released on Saturday show the Steele dossier was part of the FBI’s application, but it wasn’t all of it. Moreover, the FBI told the court it believed the person who hired Steele was looking for information that could be damaging to Trump (it was first funded by conservative website the Washington Free Beacon and then passed on to Democrats), but it said in the past he had provided reliable information.

Much of what’s disclosed in the FBI documentation discredits parts of the Nunes memo, a document released by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) in February that claimed the FBI was biased in wiretapping Page and launching the Russia investigation altogether. Judges weighing the application — all four Republican appointees — were made aware of the circumstances of the Steele dossier, and they were provided with evidence beyond its contents anyway.

“I don’t think they did anything wrong. I think they went to the court, they got the judges to approve it, they laid out all the information, and there was a lot of reasons unrelated to the dossier for why they wanted to look at Carter Page,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a separate appearance on State of the Union on Sunday.

Trump’s claiming this as a victory

President Trump appears to believe the release of the FISA warrant applications — which, again, say Page and perhaps other campaign aides might have been coordinating with Russia, and were approved by Republican-appointed judges — is a good thing for him. He took to Twitter on Sunday morning to celebrate the documents’ release.

Trump also claimed the “FISA scam” led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It did not: It was the drunk bragging of George Papadopoulos, another Trump aide, that kicked off the Russia investigation in 2016.

source: vox

NIWA to Complete Lokoja, Oguta River Ports in 2018 – MD


Mr Danladi Ibrahim, Acting Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) says the ongoing construction of Lokoja, Oguta River ports will be completed before the end of 2018.

Ibrahim, who disclosed this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja, said the Lokoja port was 75 per cent completed while Oguta port, in Imo, was 70 per cent completed.

“We are looking at Lokoja, Oguta ports to be completed in 2018. We have also completed one of our major ports in Baro.

“The two ports will be completed before the end of the year.  As soon as the budget implementation starts, we will swing into action,” the official said.

He said by 2019, the agency would commence the Makurdi port, adding  that new ports would be developed as the need arises

Ibrahim said that the agency was going to buy equipment in batches to start moving cargoes from Lagos port to Onitsha and Baro.

According to him, when the Onitsha, Lokoja and Baro river ports commence operation, they will create over 2000 jobs.

“By the time Onitsha, Lokoja and Baro ports come into operation, more than 2000 jobs will be created because the operations of these ports will attract infrastructure.

“The port will be connected to rail, companies like Dangote and Bua will also be handy to utilise these ports.”

The NIWA boss, however, said that the dredging maintenance from Ajaokuta-Onitsha would be done as soon as allocation in the 2018 budget was released .

He said that the agency had embarked on direct maintenance dredging of its channels, which was a very cheap way of maintaining the waterways unlike the previous practice.

Ibrahim said the maintenanice of the  dredging from Baro to Idah in Kogi state was recently completed.

“We are acquiring additional two dredgers from our 2018 budget and every year we will be adding, until we have a pool of sufficient number of dredgers that we can maintain.

“We are getting the additional dredgers to enhance our capacity for in-house maintenance dredging of the channels.”

He said Onitsha port had been concessioned, “so operations will start any moment from now”. (NAN)


Chartered Investiture Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) to Host Efekoha on Tuesday July 20, 2018


Chuks Udo Okonta, Lagos: The Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) has announced plans to host the investiture of its 49th President, Eddie Efekoha.

The Chairman of the Investiture committee, Sunny Adeda, who disclosed this today at a press parley in Lagos, stated that the event will hold on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at the Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria island Lagos.

Adeda stated that the event will be chaired by Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya MFR and will be attended by over 500 colleagues, friends and well-wishers of Eddie from all walks of life.

He noted that Efekoha, has the right values and industry pedigree required to ensure the institute continues to play a relevant role in the insurance sector, describing him as a visionary leader whose years of experience in Insurance will be brought to bear on the institute and to the insurance sector as a whole.

He noted that Efekoha has served the Institute in various capacities since becoming a member in 1988, stressing that He was at various times the, Deputy President of the Institute; Governing Council Member since 2005; Treasurer of the Institute; Chairman Education Committee; Deputy Chairman, Membership Committee; Member, Merit Award Committee and Chairman, Board of College of Insurance and Financial Management.

Adeda maintained that as part of the Investiture Ceremony, a golf tournament has been put together by the Golfer friends of Efekoha, adding that the special golf event will hold on July, 28th 2018 at the Ikeja Golf Club.

“The choice of Ikeja is preferred because the current Captain is a past President of our Institute. About 150 golfers from various clubs will be teeing-off in the morning to celebrate the new President of our Institute.

“There will be a closing dinner on the same day after the golf tournament. This event is aimed at bridging the gap between Insurance Practitioners and the Consumers of Insurance,” he said.

He noted that the Institute prides itself as having a robust succession plan which has continued to ensure a seamless and rancor-free transition from one President to another, stressing that potential candidate to the office of the President is expected to have moved through the leadership ladder without blemish.

“The journey to the Institutes presidency engenders commitment, hard work and consistentmembership of the Governing Council. Continuous membership is essential, but not adequate to make anybody the President of the Institute. We ensure that such persons must be fit and proper and possess outstanding qualities as well as an uninhibited zest to serve selflessly,” he added.

Deputy Director General of the Institute Mrs Uju Ndubuisi Chukwu, who represented the Director General, pointed out that the President’s passion for the industry had seen him rise through the ranks to become Managing Director of Consolidated Hallmark Insurance.

A representative for the journalists present and Vice Chairman, National Association of Insurance and Pension Correspondents (NAIPCO) Chuks Udo Okonta, reinforced the position of the earlier speakers by saying that Efekoha had endeared himself to the media through purposeful leadership and quality service delivery in all the positions of leadership he has occupied.

He charged the incoming president not to rest on his oars, but to continue the good work going on at the institute in order to ensure he leaves an indelible mark on the industry.

Okonta pledged on behalf of colleagues to support the President by projecting his administration’s activities in-depth reportage.

Profile of Eddie Efekoha

Eddie Agberia Efekoha was born on the 16th of August 1959 to the family of Chief Temisa Efekoha (late) and Madam Omotesiri Erhuvwoarho of Egbo-Uhurie in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State. He attended Anglican Primary School Egbo-Uhurie and Agbassa Primary School Warri from where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1971. He proceeded to Nana College, Warri, a Teacher Training College, between 1974 and 1979 from where he obtained the Teacher Grade II Certificate.

As a trained teacher, Eddie taught briefly before joining Warri Refinery & Petro- Chemical Company in 1979 as a Plant Operator. It was during his stay with the Refinery that he studied as a part-time student and passed the GCE Advanced Level in Geography and Economics.

Eddie was a pioneer student of Economics at the then Bendel State University, now Edo State University, Ekpoma but spent just one academic session before accepting his admission to study Insurance at the University of Lagos in 1982. He graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science degree, Second Class Upper Division, and in 1995 obtained a Master Degree in Business Administration from the same university.

Mr Efekoha became an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute of London by examination in 1987 and Fellow of the same Institute in 1991, specialising in property insurance. He was consequently elected a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria in 1995. Earlier this year, 2018, Mr Efekoha was admitted as a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, Nigeria.

His work experience in the insurance industry started with Everyman Insurance Brokers Ltd, Ilorin in 1985 where he did his national youth service and was later retained as a permanent staff. He worked briefly with Hogg Robinson Nigeria (1986-1988) from where he left for Glanvill Enthoven & Co (Nigeria) as an Assistant Manager. Due to the versatility, hard work and extra-ordinary capacity which Mr Efekoha brought to bear on each assignment given to him he enjoyed rapid promotions and in 1997 the Board appointed him Executive Director in charge of its technical operations.

Mr. Efekoha left Glanvill Enthoven & Co in 1997 to spearhead the turnaround of Fountain Insurance Brokers Ltd as its MD & CEO. The company enjoyed tremendous goodwill and reputation for professional broking services and it attained a top ten position in less than five years. The entrepreneurial drive of Mr. Efekoha led him again to champion another turnaround in 2003, this time in the underwriting sector of the insurance industry when he and others acquired the then Metropolitan Trust Insurance Company Ltd. The company was immediately renamed Consolidated Risk Insurers Plc. (CRI) and Mr. Efekoha became its Executive Vice Chairman and CEO.

The regulatory induced recapitalisation of insurance companies in 2007 led CRI to merge with Hallmark Assurance Plc and Nigerian General Insurance Company Ltd to form Consolidated Hallmark Insurance Plc where he emerged as Managing Director.

Consolidated Hallmark under his direction has significantly grown its revenue base over the years and has since diversified into other aspects of financial services through the establishment of subsidiaries including Grand Treasurers Limited (GTL), a Finance Company fully licenced by the Central Bank of Nigeria and Hallmark HMO, a Health Maintenance Organisation

Mr Efekoha is an alumnus of both Lagos (CEP 14) and Harvard Business Schools and was until recently the Deputy President of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) and Chairman of the Board of the College of Insurance & Financial Management, a subsidiary of the CIIN. For several years in the Lagos insurance market, Eddie assisted in preparing students for both the CII London and CIIN professional examinations in property, pecuniary and business interruption insurances. Mr Efekoha joined the Governing Council of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria in 2005 and since then to-date he has served in various capacities including but not limited to being the Chairman of the Education Committee, Hon. Treasurer (June 2014 – June 2017) and member of several other ad-hoc and standing committees.

Mr. Efekoha is the Immediate Past Chairman of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) and Member of the African Insurance Organization Book Review Committee. He chairs the Boards of Sephine Edefe Nigeria Ltd., CHI Capital Ltd, Grand Treasurers Ltd and Planet Capital Asset Management Ltd.

He is an avid golfer and member of the Ikeja Golf Club, Ikoyi Club 1938 (Golf Section) and IBB International Golf & Country Club, Abuja.

Mr. Efekoha is a devout Christian and an active member of the Catholic Church of the Resurrection, Magodo, Lagos. He is happily married to his best friend and soul mate, Oghenenyoreh and their marriage is blessed with three children, Ejiroghene, Oghenetejiri and Avwerosuoghene.



Trump’s easing penalties on a Chinese company that sold to North Korea and Iran. Republicans are letting him do it.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) listens to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) during a news conference in 2013.

Congressional Republicans are going to let Trump ease up on ZTE after all.

Republicans are siding with President Donald Trump in easing penalties on Chinese telecom company ZTE. Negotiators in the Senate and the House of Representatives removed language from a must-pass defense bill that would have banned United States companies from selling parts or providing services to ZTE, which the Commerce Department says made illegal sales to Iran and North Korea in defiance of US sanctions.

Here’s the back story: In March 2017, the Commerce Department hit ZTE with a $1.19 billion fine for its export violations to Iran and North Korea. Then in April of this year, Commerce banned all US companies from selling to ZTE for seven years. ZTE makes inexpensive smartphones and relies on parts made in the US, meaning the maneuver was essentially a death sentence for the company.

But then in May, Trump tweeted he wants to find a way to get ZTE “back into business.” He lamented the number of Chinese jobs lost as a result of US actions.

For a while, it looked like Congress was going to step in to stop Trump from easing up on ZTE. A bipartisan group of senators, including Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), sponsored a measure that would have reinstated penalties on ZTE and banned US government agencies from buying devices or services from ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese telecom company. The US intelligence community has also warned that Huawei and ZTE phones pose a national security risk to the US.

The Senate voted to pass the provision as part of the National Defense Authorization Act by an 85-10 vote in June, and that version of the legislation was sent off to be reconciled with a narrower House version of the bill. And apparently, the House version won out: ZTE can’t get US government contracts, nor can Huawei, but it can still do business with private companies in the US.

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in June warned that the Congressional measure would “trample on the separation of powers” and hamstring Trump’s negotiation efforts with China. He released a statement on Friday after meeting with Trump about what he said was “short-sighted ZTE language” in the original Senate bill. “President Trump should not have his hands tied as he engages in major negotiations dealing with trade and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

The bill could become law by the end of this month.

Democrats and some Republican lawmakers aren’t thrilled

Senate Minority Leader Schumer slammed the decision in the statement on Friday. “By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump — and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest — have once again made President Xi and the Chinese government the big winners and the American worker and our national security the big losers,” he said.

Sen. Rubio said he was surprised his fellow lawmakers had “caved.”

ZTE won’t be off the hook entirely: In June, Commerce struck another deal with ZTE that required it to pay a $1-billion fine, replace its leadership, put $400 million into an escrow account, and fund US compliance monitoring for 10 years in order to do business with US suppliers. But detractors say that’s not enough.

“Despite bipartisan support to put American national security before jobs in China, the Republican leadership refused to take any real, substantive action on ZTE. Instead, they joined President Trump in bowing to Beijing,” Sen. Van Hollen said. It’s weak and shameful.”

Rubio suggested that GOP leadership’s decision to soften the language on ZTE was connected to a deal to bolster the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, or CFIUS, a committee under the Treasury Department that reviews cross-border deals for security threats.

The National Defense Authorization Act contains language expanding CFIUS’s authority to intervene in and block transactions, including with Chinese companies. Trump has already blocked two US-China deals as president at CFIUS’s recommendation: Canyon Bridge Capital Partners’ proposed acquisition of Lattice Semiconductor in September, and the Broadcom-Qualcomm deal in March.

source: vox

Robert Mueller wants to question the “Manhattan Madam”


Trump reacts to Michael Cohen’s secret recording: “Inconceivable”

Michael Cohen, personal lawyer for President-elect Donald Trump, gets into an elevator at Trump Tower, December 12, 2016 in New York City. 

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

President Donald Trump lashed out at his former attorney Michael Cohen on Saturday, reacting to a report that Cohen secretly recorded the two discussing a payoff to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claims they had an affair. Trump called Cohen’s actions “inconceivable,” but emphasized he did nothing wrong.

The New York Times reported on Friday that the Department of Justice’s investigation into Cohen includes a recording of a September 2016 conversation between him and Trump about paying McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. Trumps current lawyer Rudy Giuliani acknowledged the tape in interviews with the Times and CNN but claimed the president hadn’t done anything wrong.

Trump in a tweet on Saturday repeated that line. He said it was “inconceivable” that the government would break into a lawyer’s office — as the FBI did to Cohen in April — and that a lawyer would tape his client. Trump said that Cohen’s actions were “totally unheard of” and “perhaps illegal.” In New York, where the conversation was recorded, it is legal for communications to be taped as long as one party knows it’s happening. Legal ethics codes, like the American Bar Association’s professional conduct rules, don’t specifically address secretly recording clients.

Cohen is under federal criminal investigation over his business dealings, and officials are probing payments he made to women to keep them from speaking out about Trump. That includes a $130,000 payout to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, and a payment to McDougal. The payments might have violated federal campaign finance law.

During the campaign, the National Enquirer paid McDougal $150,000 for her story on her alleged year-long relationship with Trump and then never published the story. According to one of Giuliani’s varying accounts of the recording, Trump and Cohen discussed buying the rights to her story from the Enquirer — essentially a reimbursement. Giuliani had initially said they were talking about a separate payment to McDougal to buy her story.

Michael Cohen used to be Trump’s top fixer. Now he’s a thorn in his side.

Cohen was President Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer and was for years fiercely loyal to Trump, going as far as to say he would “take a bullet” for the president. But the tide appears to be turning.

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos earlier this month, Cohen emphasized that he prioritizes his family and country, not Trump. There have been multiple reports suggesting Cohen is considering making a deal to cooperate with Justice Department prosecutors, and he has publicly distanced himself from the president, going as far as to change his Twitter profile to remove references to Trump. He’s switched up his legal team, too.

As Vox’s Li Zhou points out, one of the big questions stemming from the report about Cohen’s possession of the McDougal tape is whether there are other tapes out there. Reports suggest there are.

source: vox

Nursing Mother, 154 stranded Nigerians in Russia Arrive Abuja


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 A nursing mother and 154 out of 230 Nigerian football fans stranded in Russia after the 2018 FIFA World Cup arrived the country on Friday night.
 The stranded football fans including a nursing mother in her mid thirties came through Ethiopian Airline flight number ET-ALP that arrived Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja at about 9.12 p.m on July 20.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, who was at the airport to monitor their arrival, lauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort to ensure their safe return.
He said that Mr President had directed that Nigerians, who were stranded in Russia after the 2018 World Cup tournament, should be evacuated immediately.
According to him,  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been monitoring the process of the evacuation, which is under the coordination of the Mission of Nigeria in Moscow.
He said that 155 stranded Nigerians had been cleared to board an Ethiopian Airline flight to Abuja.
”The aircraft departed Domodedovo Airport in Moscow with the stranded Nigerians in the afternoon and arrived in Abuja this evening.
Onyeama said he had been working very closely with the Minister of State for Aviation following President Buhari’s directive on the exercise.
He recalled that some Nigerian football fans who were stranded had besieged the Embassy of Nigeria in Moscow on July 12.
”They were among the fans who travelled to the Russian Federation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Tournament and were stranded after the events due to lack of funds for their upkeep.”
The minister explained that there was also an allegation that some airline travel agents cancelled return tickets of their customers without informing them.

He said that Mr President, however,  gave the directive that they should be evacuated with immediate effect at the expense of the government.

Onyeama commended the good gesture of Mr President, saying those stranded were never part of government delegates to Russia.
According to him, the Nigerian Mission had been supportive by making arrangements for the feeding and accommodation of the stranded Nigerians in hostels around Moscow.
One of the returnees, Bamidele Fatai was full of praises to President Buhari for making their journey possible.
He also thanked the Nigerian Mission in Moscow for giving them necessary support.
Another returnee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was swindled by an agent who cancelled his return ticket.
He said he was in Moscow to support the Nigerian Football Team and to catch fun only to discover that his ticket had been cancelled when he was ready to return home. (NAN)

Eritrea Appoints First Ambassador to Ethiopia in 20 years


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Eritrea has appointed its first ambassador to neighbouring Ethiopia in two decades, the government said on Saturday, as the former foes pushed on with a rapprochement.

The job went to Semere Russom, Eritrea’s current Education Minister and former Ambassador to the U.S.  Information Minister Yemane Meskel said on Twitter.

The first Ethiopian flight to Eritrea in 20 years landed in Asmara on Wednesday as part peace-building efforts between the two countries.  (Reuters/NAN)


Osun NYSC Appeals to Graduates Posted to State to Declare Health Status


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Mr Emmanuel Attah, the Osun Coordinator of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has appealed to prospective graduates posted to the state for NYSC to declare their health status for better management.

Attah made the appeal in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Osogbo, on the corps preparedness to accommodate and camp new set of graduates for the NYSC scheme.

He said that the Osun NYSC orientation camp, located at Ede, would be opened on Tuesday through to Wednesday for the graduates posted to the state to report and register.

He added that the camp would be closed for registration by Wednesday midnight for the 21 days orientation, while registered members would be sworn in as 2018 Batch B corps members on Thursday.

He, therefore, appealed to graduates coming for NYSC not to hide their health status and avoid coming to the camp with fake medical certificate of fitness to deceive NYSC officials.

Attah said “knowing their health status would help us to assist them properly.

“Their health condition would not stop them from serving their father land, but concealing their health condition would make it difficult for us to attend to them properly.

“As I am talking to you, the National Assembly is still debating on setting up a clinic in all the NYSC camps in the country, but Osun NYSC has gone a step ahead, as we have already built a modern clinic in our camp.

“We are expecting the NYSC director general to officially inaugurate the clinic, constructed through the efforts of the state coordinator, staff of Osun NYSC and well-wishers.

“This has shown that we have taken proactive steps to see that the health care of corps members are adequately taken care of.”

He assured the incoming corps members of wonderful orientation, which would be a home away from home for them.

Attah appealed to Osun residents and members of the state transport unions to please assist and accord the incoming corps members the necessary assistance for them to locate the NYSC camp in Ede. (NAN)


Nigerian Air Force Officer Promises to Reposition Mobility Command


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The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) says it will reposition the Mobility Command for tactical and strategic airlift.
AVM Napoleon Bali, Air Officer Commanding, Headquarters of Mobility Command in Bayelsa, said this during the 2018 third quarter Route March exercise of the command in Yenagoa.

Bali said that repositioning the command became necessary to completely tackle and contain the security challenges in the country.

“Yes, we embark on Route March exercise for us to be fit in discharge of our duties and I am promising to work toward repositioning Mobility Command for tactical and strategic airlift in support of national security imperatives.

“I urge all airmen and women to go beyond routine Road March exercise and engage in personal or individual exercise.

“Let me state that during my tenure of office, I will ensure that officers welfare and of course, active participation in sporting activities, shall be treated with utmost priority.

“It is my dream to command willing, able and ready personnel, who will possess a sound mind in a healthy body at all time.

“Physical fitness is a prerequisite for careers progression of every military personnel all over the world; accordingly, I will encourage officers to strive hard and remain physical fit in the course of duties.

“Physical fitness enables a soldier to carry out his or her constitutional roles of defending the territory integrity of fatherland.

“The fact is evident in the current fight against insurgency in the north-eastern part of the country and other forms of insecurity in other parts of the country.

“Our soldiers have been given good account of themselves, especially in containing insurgency, kidnapping, armed banditry and pipeline vandalism, among other vices,’’ Bali said.(NAN)


Suspected Robber Shoots 58yr-old man in Jigawa


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The Jigawa Police Command on Saturday confirmed the shooting of a 58-year old man by suspected armed robbers in Dutse Local Government Area of the state.

SP Abdu Jinjiri, the police spokesman in the state, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Dutse that the incident occurred on July 19 at about 7:05 p.m. at the residence of the victim located at Godiya Miyetti quarters.

He explained that the suspects allegedly trailed the suspect to his resident and attempted to rob him.

“It was when the victim noticed the suspects’ presence in his house and shouted that he was shot in the belly and they ran away.

“The police were informed and took action immediately by visiting the scene and rushed the victim to hospital for medical attention and he is responding to treatment,’’ he said.

According to Jinjiri, investigation has begun to fish out and arrest the fleeing perpetrators of the attack.(NAN)



The Miami Dolphins acted on the NFL’s anthem policy. The league was unprepared for the backlash. 


The NFL is putting its anthem policy on hold after leaked documents prompt criticism.

When the NFL announced in May that it would require all players on the field to stand during the national anthem or potentially face team fines, the league sought to finally end backlash to the kneeling protests against racial injustice that dominated coverage for the past two seasons. Now the NFL will put the anthem rule on hold after a fresh round of criticism this week.

The controversy began Thursday when the Associated Press reported that the Miami Dolphins had created a team anthem policy to suspend or fine players for kneeling. According to the AP, a leaked copy of team discipline rules included a brief, one-sentence section on “Proper Anthem Conduct.” The document classifies the kneeling protests under a larger list of “conduct detrimental to the club,” that could lead to suspension, a fine, or both. Other violations on the list include “drug use or possession, gambling, breaking curfew and riding motorcycles as a driver or passenger.”

The leaked document, part of routine paperwork that teams submit to the NFL prior to the start of preseason training camps, was the first time that a team had indicated how it would enact the league’s new national anthem policy. In May, all but two of the owners of the NFL’s 32 teams voted to require all players on the field to stand for the national anthem. Those who did not would have to remain in the locker room. Players on the field who knelt would potentially face fines or suspension depending on their team’s rules.

The Dolphins’ management said the leaked document was not a finalized copy of team rules, adding that “all options are still open” when it comes to its individual anthem policy. Nonetheless, the documents quickly revived a debate that has only become more contentious since the league announced the policy. By Thursday evening, NFL leadership and the NFL Players Association, which recently filed a grievance against the league for implementing the policy without player input, announced the policy would be postponed as the groups attempted to work out a compromise.

“Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation,” the groups noted in a joint statement Thursday evening.

The Dolphins’ controversy is just the latest in a wave of backlash against the NFL’s anthem protest policy, which has attracted heavy criticism from players as well as President Donald Trump, whose frequent criticism of kneeling players almost certainly played a role the policy’s creation. And it suggests that as the season approaches, the NFL’s efforts to tamp down on the kneeling protests have only pushed the matter further into the spotlight.

The NFL was blindsided by backlash to the anthem policy. It shouldn’t have been.

When the NFL announced its new anthem policy back in May, the intention was to finally end controversy over the protests. “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell noted in a statement. “This is not and was never the case.”

The protests began two years earlier in the summer of 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem at several preseason games to protest America’s treatment of people of color. Kaepernick later switched his protest to kneeling, and a number of other players joined his protest during the 2016 season. One year later, the protests continued, although with less participation than before. Throughout both seasons, players noted that they were kneeling to protest a range of injustices against people of color, including systemic racism, police violence, and inequality.

But backlash to the protests mounted last September when Trump called kneeling players “sons of bitches” who should be fired. Trump has repeatedly framed the protests as being about patriotism rather than racial injustice, arguing that kneeling protesters did not respect America or the flag.

At first, the league reacted defiantly to Trump’s comments, with several owners briefly joining their players in the protest. But as the season closed, and players’ protests continued, it was clear that they were looking for ways to make the issue go away.

The anthem policy was promoted as the solution, requiring players on the field to stand during the anthem, but allowing them to remain in the locker room if they wished. Instead, the supposed compromise only attracted more criticism, with players noting that the policy once again misconstrued the purpose of the protests by suggesting that the players’ actions were in opposition to the anthem and the flag. Others criticized the NFL formaking the decision without their input.

While the NFL announced the policy and hoped to quickly move on, that was always unlikely to happen. On July 18, Tennessee Titans player Jurrell Casey said that he planned to continue the protest in spite of potential fines, suggesting that the league would be forced to penalize players. And as other teams submitted their policies for the season, it was likely that more teams would catch heat for adding new rules about the anthem.

But even if those things hadn’t happened, the NFL anthem policy would have continued to be news. That’s because President Trump, whose criticism largely served as the main catalyst for the anthem policy, openly hates it.

The NFL anthem policy was intended to appease President Trump. That didn’t happen.

During his time in office, President Trump has proved remarkably adept at taking racial issues and turning them into full-blown culture wars. The NFL protests were no exception, with the president regularly raising the issue to rile up his supporters.

And while the president briefly praised the anthem rule, telling Fox News in May that “the NFL owners did the right thing,” it wasn’t long before he had settled on a new line of attack against the NFL.

It began in June, when Trump reignited the issue by disinviting the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles from the White House, claiming that the team “disagreed with their president because he insists that they proudly stand for the national anthem.” The Eagles never kneeled during the 2017 season. Trump would criticize the NFL again later that month, saying that he didn’t think players were protesting “a real issue.

In the weeks since, Trump — who reportedly told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that attacking the protests was a “winning” issue — continues to criticize the new anthem policy at rallies. During a July 5 rally in Montana, Trump suggested that the policy was “worse” than letting players kneel. If you don’t respect the flag or you don’t like the country or whatever it is, just go into the locker room,” Trump said. “Just go into the locker room. I think in many respects that’s worse. Isn’t that worse than having them not standing?”

With the regular NFL season slated to begin in September, the league finds itself in a position where it has only managed to anger both protesting players and those who oppose them. As owners and players enter a new round of discussions, there’s a chance that it can work with players to find a better solution. But even if that better solution is reached, the league will have to deal with the fact that it became engulfed in a PR nightmare of its own making.

source: vox

What we learned from Trump’s worst foreign policy week ever

US President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16, 2018. It didn’t go well.

The five main takeaways from Trump’s disastrous Russia week.

President Donald Trump just survived one of the most disastrous weeks of his presidency.

In the process, however, he demonstrated just how poorly he handles foreign policy issues — and undermined our persistent, misplaced hope that he will somehow do better.

Instead of defending US interests at his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16, Trump kowtowed to the dictator. He bought Putin’s denials that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 presidential election, even though Trump’s top intelligence officials have repeatedly stated that Russia did — and provided evidence of this fact weeks before Trump was inaugurated.

The US president also failed in other ways. He didn’t shame Putin for working with Iran to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and relentlessly bombing innocent civilians. He also didn’t push back on Putin’s attempt to take over Georgia in 2008, or his invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Trump’s performance was so bad, in fact, that the administration received widespread, bipartisan condemnation for it, and even official congressional action in the form of a non-binding resolution to rebuke it.

The president doesn’t seem to be bothered by any of this. He just invited Putin to the White House for another meeting in the fall. What’s really surprising about this past week is how caught off guard the American people were by what transpired.

Here are the five main takeaways, in case you missed the action.

Trump often insists on going rogue, no matter the situation

Trump’s staff gave him around 100 pages of briefing materials before his Putin meeting, telling him exactly what he should and shouldn’t say. He ignored almost all of it, and the entire meeting went “very much counter to plan,” a source told the Washington Post on July 16.

Yeah, no kidding.

But Trump made it worse. Roughly 24 hours after Trump sided with Putin over US intelligence officials on the question of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, his staff convinced Trump to reverse course. Reading from a prepared statement, Trump said that he accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow meddled.

Then came his next sentence: “Could be other people also, a lot of people out there.”

You could almost hear the sounds of his staff’s palms hitting their foreheads.

Even when Trump tried to do damage control, he couldn’t. And there’s one simple reason for that: Trump can’t control himself.

The president’s staff surely knows this and tries their best to work around it. But the implications for America’s foreign policy are staggering: No matter what Trump’s team says or does, Trump will act the way he wants to.

That means, perhaps more than any other president, Trump will conduct US foreign policy as his own vanity project — and not solely in the interest of the people he serves.

Trump’s foreign policy: keep your friends far and your enemies close

There does seem to be a method to Trump’s global madness: He likes to lambast allies but flatter and cajole America’s adversaries.

Take his trip to NATO last week:

  • He blasted allies for not spending enough on defense, calling them “delinquent,” and even suggesting they double their commitments.
  • He repeatedly interrupted NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, at one point making the alliance leader praise him.
  • He insulted Germany, calling it a “captive to Russia” because it imports energy from the country.

And all of that took place at the opening breakfast of the two-day summit.

Things just went downhill from there. Trump arrived 30 minutes late to a meeting on Russian aggression, skipped at least two scheduled meetings with world leaders, and threatened to “go it alone” if European allies didn’t pay more for their own defense, seeming to suggest he might pull the US out of the alliance.

Trump ultimately declared the summit a success in a bizarre impromptu press conference shortly after, claiming he got allies to pay up for defense and declaring himself “a very stable genius.” (French President Emmanuel Macron disputes that NATO countries agreed to Trump’s demands.)

Compare all of that to Trump’s Monday with Putin. A two-hour, one-on-one meeting with no staff around. A long, bilateral working lunch with staff to discuss further details of the US-Russia relationship. Then, a 45-minute press conference where the president proceeded to praise Putin and Russia. It was vaguely reminiscent of Trump’s time with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un a month earlier.

There’s one potential reason why the president acts this way: Trump believes America’s friends should do more to promote US interests, while the president feels he must be nice to adversaries to get them on Washington’s side.

Whatever the reason may be, Trump has completely flipped decades of American foreign policy on its head — and this past week was the greatest example of it yet.

Republicans have a bending — but not breaking — point

The backlash was swift after Trump’s disastrous press conference with Putin on Monday — and much of it came from the president’s own party.

Even reliable White House allies, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, issued statements slamming Trump’s refusal to admit that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election. “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world,” Ryan said in a statement hours after the press conference. “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”

Republicans stood up to Trump again on Wednesday. The White House didn’t rule out letting Russians interrogate 11 Americans — including a former US ambassador to Moscow — for alleged crimes for which there is no evidence.

The next day, the GOP-led Senate passed a resolution with a unanimous 98-0 vote, discouraging the US from handing over current or former US officials to the Kremlin.

But the resolution was nonbinding, meaning Congress has no way of actually implementing it, and there are no consequences if it does happen.

What’s worse, the GOP rejected two other nonbinding proposals before voting on the one they passed. The first one expressed the Senate’s support for the US intelligence community and Mueller’s probe, and the other also backed US spies and called for hearings about the Trump-Putin meeting to learn about what they said to each other.

So, when faced with three resolutions, all of which were symbolic, Republicans only backed the weakest of them. It shows the GOP will bend when it comes to Trump’s handling of Russia, but not even Trump’s performance in Helsinki could get Republicans to break with him.

There’s a massive breakdown in American foreign policy

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats likely knows the names of Chinese spies posing as students at American universities, which US grids Iranian hackers gained access to, and even what you just texted your cousin.

What he doesn’t know is what Trump said to Putin during their meeting. That’s right: The person charged with knowing many of the world’s secrets doesn’t know what his boss said in a high-stakes meeting.

That was just one of many shocking, and uncharacteristically candid, revelations Coats offered a crowd at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday.

It gets worse. Coats also said he had no idea Trump planned to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House in May 2017 — and he also had no clue that Trump had invited Putin to a second meeting in Washington.

When NBC’s Andrea Mitchell broke that news to Coats during their interview, he was clearly caught off guard. “Say that again?” Coats said, nervously laughing as the audience joined him. “Okay. That’s going to be special.”

The White House, naturally, is unhappy. “Coats appeared to be laughing at the president, playing to his audience of the intellectual elite in a manner that was sure to infuriate Trump,” an administration official told the Washington Post.

What this petty squabble shows is two amazing breakdowns in the way this White House runs. First, the president’s top officials don’t know what Trump may or may not have agreed to with Putin. And second, at least one top Trump official doesn’t seem to care who knows about it.

This is not normal. But then again, we shouldn’t be surprised.

The surprising thing about Trump’s Helsinki meeting? That we were all surprised.

Here’s a question I wrestle with: Trump is not a normal president, so why do we keep expecting him to act normally?

I asked myself this again during the reaction to Trump’s press conference with Putin. The political community was shockedSHOCKED! — that he would side with Putin over American intelligence officials, brag about his election win, and repudiate special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in front of the entire world instead of, well, acting presidential and defending US interests.

But why did we expect anything else? Trump has frequently upended our expectations about how an American president should act while abroad — just like he has upended many other norms of the presidency.

And it’s not just with Putin. Trump has also:

  • Called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — a brutal dictator who starves and imprisons millions of people — “very honorable” in the lead up to their June summit.
  • Snubbed German Chancellor Angela Merkel by not shaking her hand during their March 2017 Oval Office meeting.
  • Pushed the leader of Montenegro, a NATO ally, out of the way for a group photo.
  • Refused to affirm NATO’s Article 5, which says an attack on one is an attack on all, during a May 2017 visit to alliance’s headquarters. (He later did affirm Article 5 weeks later, and the White House tells me America’s commitment to NATO is “ironclad.”)

I could go on, but you get the idea. The Putin meeting was arguably worse than any of the above examples, but the point remains the same: Trump is a disaster when he represents America around the world. That he was a disaster again in Helsinki should have come as no surprise to anyone.

source: vox